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Article

Patriation of the Constitution

In 1982, Canada fully broke from its colonial past and “patriated” its Constitution. It transferred the country’s highest law, the British North America Act (which was renamed the Constitution Act, 1867), from the authority of the British Parliament to Canada’s federal and provincial legislatures. The Constitution was also updated with a new amending formula and a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These changes occurred after a fierce, 18-month political and legal struggle that dominated headlines and the agendas of every government in the country.

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MS St. Louis

​On 7 June 1939, 907 Jewish refugees aboard the MS St. Louis were denied entry to Canada. The ship returned its passengers to safe harbour in four European countries. Sadly, 254 of its passengers later perished in the Holocaust.

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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in Canada

Since the late 1960s, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Canada has seen steady gains in rights. While discrimination against LGBT people persists in many places, major strides toward mainstream social acceptance and formal legal equality have nonetheless been made in recent decades. Canada is internationally regarded as a leader in this field. Recent years have seen steady progress on everything from health care to the right to adopt. In 2005, Canada became the fourth country worldwide to legalize same-sex marriage.

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Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada

The Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada, also known as the Bird Commission in honour of its chair, Florence Bird, was established on 3 February 1967. More than 900 people appeared at its public hearings over a period of six months. In addition to providing an overview of the status of women, the report tabled on 7 December 1970 included 167 recommendations for reducing gender inequality across the various spheres of Canadian society.

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Black Enslavement in Canada

In early Canada, the enslavement of African peoples was a legal instrument that helped fuel colonial economic enterprise. The buying, selling and enslavement of Black people was practiced by European traders and colonists in New France in the early 1600s, and lasted until it was abolished throughout British North America in 1834. During that two-century period, settlers in what would eventually become Canada were involved in the transatlantic slave trade. Canada is further linked to the institution of enslavement through its history of international trade. Products such as salted cod and timber were exchanged for slave-produced goods such as rum, molasses, tobacco and sugar from slaveholding colonies in the Caribbean.

This is the full-length entry about Black enslavement in Canada. For a plain language summary, please see Black Enslavement in Canada (Plain Language Summary).

(See also Olivier Le Jeune; Sir David Kirke; Chloe Cooley and the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada; Underground Railroad; Fugitive Slave Act of 1850; Slavery Abolition Act, 1833; Slavery of Indigenous People in Canada.)

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Child Labour

Child labour is defined as the regular employment of boys and girls under the age of 15 or 16. Attitudes toward child labour have altered dramatically since the late 18th century, when it was generally assumed that children should contribute to the family economy from about age seven. By the beginning of the 20th century most Canadian provinces had enacted labour legislation to restrict the employment of children.

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October Crisis (Plain-Language Summary)

The October Crisis happened in the fall of 1970. It was sparked by the Front de liberation du Québec (FLQ). The FLQ used terrorist tactics to try and make Quebec independent from Canada. On 5 October, the FLQ kidnapped James Cross, a British trade commissioner. The FLQ also kidnapped Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act. The Act had never been used before during peacetime. It suspended civil liberties and led to hundreds of arrests. Laporte was murdered and found on 17 October. Cross was freed on 3 December. The crisis ended on 28 December, when Laporte’s killers were captured.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the October Crisis. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see the full-length entry.)

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Fatty Legs

Fatty Legs (2010) is a memoir about a young Inuvialuit girl’s two years at a religious residential school. It is based on the experiences of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, who cowrote the novel with her daughter-in-law Christy Jordan-Fenton. Published by Annick Press, the book features illustrations by Liz Amini-Holmes and archival photographs from Pokiak-Fenton’s personal collection. Fatty Legs was a finalist for the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize. It received many other nominations and was named one of the 10 best children’s books of the year by the Globe and Mail.

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Transgender Archives at the University of Victoria

The Transgender Archives at the University of Victoria is believed to be the largest collection of historical documents and materials related to transgender research and activism in the world (see Historical Sources). Aaron Devor, chair of Transgender Studies at the University of Victoria, is the founder and subject matter expert of the archives, which officially opened in 2011. The archives aim to preserve the history and research of transgender people and other gender-diverse peoples. (See also Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in Canada; Two-Spirit; Queer Culture.)

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Persons Case (Plain-Language Summary)

The Persons Case was a constitutional ruling. It established the right of women to serve in the Senate. The case was started by the Famous Five. They were a group of women activists. In 1928, they objected to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that women were not “persons.” As such, they were not allowed to serve in the Senate. The Famous Five challenged the law. In 1929, the decision was reversed. As a result, women were legally recognized as “persons.” They could no longer be denied rights based on a narrow reading of the law.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the Persons Case. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see the full-length entry.)

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First Nations in Canada

First Nation is one of three groupings of Indigenous people in Canada, the other two being Métis and Inuit. Unlike Métis and Inuit, most First Nations hold reserve lands, and members of a First Nation may live both on and off these reserves. While the term First Nation can describe a large ethnic grouping (e.g. the Cree Nation), in other cases it is synonymous with the term band, a word originally chosen by the federal government and used in the Indian Act. The word band describes smaller communities. Many First Nations prefer the term First Nation over band.

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Quebec Film History: 1990 to Present

This entry presents an overview of Quebec cinema, from the explosion that followed Denys Arcand’s Le déclin de l’empire américain (1986) to the setback that followed 10 years later and the new wave of filmmaking that emerged at the beginning of the 21st century. It highlights the most important films, whether in terms of box office success or international acclaim, and covers both narrative features and documentaries. It also draws attention to an aspect of filmmaking that still has difficulty finding its place: women's cinema.

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Misinformation in Canada

The advance of computers into all aspects of our lives and the rising role of the Internet have led many people to call this the Information Age. But with news travelling fast, and often with few checks and balances to ensure accuracy, it can also be seen as the Misinformation Age. Learning how to separate facts from misinformation or so-called fake news has become a critical modern skill as people learn to evaluate information being shared with them, as well as to scrutinize information they may share themselves.

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Quebec Film History: 1970 to 1989

This entry presents an overview of Québec cinema, from the burgeoning of a distinctly Québec cinema in the 1970s, to the production explosion that followed Denys Arcand’s Le déclin de l’empire américain (1986). It highlights the most important films, whether in terms of box office success or international acclaim, and covers both narrative features and documentaries. It also draws attention to an aspect of filmmaking that still has difficulty finding its place: women's cinema.

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Population of Canada

Canada’s recorded population history begins in the 16th century with the arrival of Europeans. Indigenous peoples were subsequently depopulated, due largely to epidemic disease. High rates of fertility and immigration caused the country’s overall population to grow rapidly until the mid-19th century, when it slowed slightly. Population growth continued to be slow through the First World War, Great Depression and Second World War. Following this period growth rates began to increase again. Today, Canada’s population growth is dependent on international migration. As of the 2021 census, Canada’s population was nearly 37 million (36,991,981).

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Gustafsen Lake Standoff

The Gustafsen Lake Standoff was a month-long conflict (18 August–17 September 1995) between a small group of First Nations Sun Dancers and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The standoff took place in central British Columbia, in Secwepemc (Shuswap) territory near 100 Mile House. Sparked by a dispute between a local rancher and a camp of Sun Dancers over access to private land for ceremonial purposes, the armed confrontation raised larger questions of Indigenous land rights in British Columbia. On 11 September 1995, in what was later called the largest paramilitary operation in the history of the province, RCMP surrounded the remote camp and a firefight erupted during which, remarkably, no one was seriously injured. The standoff at Gustafsen Lake is perhaps the least known in a series of localized armed conflicts involving Indigenous peoples in the 1990s that included the Oka and Ipperwash crises in Quebec and Ontario, respectively.

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Canadian Film History: 1896 to 1938

Filmmaking is a powerful form of cultural and artistic expression, as well as a highly profitable commercial enterprise. From a practical standpoint, filmmaking is a business involving large sums of money and a complex division of labour. This labour is involved, roughly speaking, in three sectors: production, distribution and exhibition. The history of the Canadian film industry has been one of sporadic achievement accomplished in isolation against great odds. Canadian cinema has existed within an environment where access to capital for production, to the marketplace for distribution and to theatres for exhibition has been extremely difficult. The Canadian film industry, particularly in English Canada, has struggled against the Hollywood entertainment monopoly for the attention of an audience that remains largely indifferent toward the domestic industry. The major distribution and exhibition outlets in Canada have been owned and controlled by foreign interests. The lack of domestic production throughout much of the industry’s history can only be understood against this economic backdrop.

This article is one of four that surveys the history of the film industry in Canada. The entire series includes: Canadian Film History: 1896 to 1938; Canadian Film History: 1939 to 1973; Canadian Film History: 1974 to Present; Canadian Film History: Notable Films and Filmmakers 1980 to Present.

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Quebec Film History: 1896 to 1969

This entry presents an overview of Quebec cinema, from its beginnings in the silent film era to the burgeoning of a distinctly Quebec cinema in the 1960s. It highlights the most important films, whether in terms of box office success or international acclaim, and covers both narrative features and documentaries. It also draws attention to an aspect of filmmaking that still has difficulty finding its place: women’s cinema.

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Language Policy in Canada

Language policy is comprised of a body of theory, principles, laws, programs and measures designed to manage one or more languages in a country. In monolingual societies, language policy is usually concerned with promoting an approved, standardized grammar of the common language. In bilingual or multilingual societies, it is intended to manage situations in which two or more languages are in contact and/or conflict, and to enhance the use and status of certain languages over others. Language policy in Canada has been designed to manage historical relationships among multiple languages – notably FrenchEnglish and Indigenous languages - and their various communities. While it has evolved over time, Canadian language policy has not always been marked by positive or just measures.